Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Exploitation or Empowerment?


Exploitation or Empowerment?
By Keith Giles

Just imagine for a moment that you could be part of a church where the one thing they were extremely good at was to help everyone discover what their calling and gifting was. Then imagine that the one thing they always did next was to set you free and encourage you to follow that dream and live out that God-given calling. Wouldn’t that be amazing?

Wouldn't it be so incredible to be part of a church that was passionate about helping others realize their hopes and live out their dreams? Can you just imagine how others would speak of a church like that to their friends?

"Do you know what these people did for me? They loved me, they supported me, they encouraged me, they gave me confidence, they cheered me on and they put their resources towards making my life-long purpose a reality."

Wouldn't you want to know how to get to a church like that? Wouldn't you be excited to get in line and have your turn at being empowered and loved and supported and set free to live out the calling and utilize the talents God gave to you?

I just have to wonder, why isn't every Christian Church on the face of the planet like that?

Wolfgang Simson, author of "Houses That Change the World", put together a fascinating list to help us see the difference between Church as God intended it and Church as we so often experience it.

*Give people something to do OR *Give people something to attend
*Believe in people OR *Make people believe in you
*Delegate authority OR *Require submission to your authority
*Further God's plan for their life OR *Make them part of your plans
*Invest in them OR * Use them
*Love them and show it OR *Love the task more than the people
*Give them what you have OR *Take what they have
*Provide resources for growth OR *Harvest their resources for your own use
*Discuss with them OR * Preach at them
*Spend time freely with them OR *Require appointments that suit your schedule
*Give them the keys now OR *Hold back until you retire
*Serve them OR *Get them to serve you
*Praise them OR *Accept their praise graciously
*Transfer masterhood to them OR *Demonstrate your masterhood to them

Someone once pointed out to me that the goal of an apple tree is not to produce more apples. It's to produce more apple trees. This is the organic purpose found in nature, and it's the organic purpose of the Body of Christ as well.

When an apple tree produces apples that's important. You can't really be an apple tree and not produce apples, of course. But if everything ended there the apple tree would not have achieved the purpose for which God designed it. The apple tree must produce more apple trees in order to realize its full potential. Otherwise, when that tree dies, so does the potential for creating more apples.

In the context of the Christian church I see too many pastors and church leaders who are terrified of taking their brightest and most talented and releasing them into the world. They feel that losing those gifted, intelligent, talented individuals will somehow make their church poorer and weaker. So they expend a whole lot of energy trying to keep those people busy and connected and plugged in to what they are doing instead of encouraging them to discover their gifting and calling and releasing them to go and to do whatever it is that God has created them for.

A church that practiced encouraging growth like this would be responsible for spawning ministries and providing good fruit for the community on an exponential level. It would also be living out the command of Scripture to seek the good of others around us rather than selfishly seeking our own good. (Philippians 2:3)

Usually the only way someone with talent and vision ever leaves one church to start another is when they leave under protest and start something all by themselves. Why? Because most pastors will tell you that they are not ready to start planting a church until they reach 500 members. The problem with that is when you realize that the average church in America is only about 250 to 300 people. Most never reach the 500 mark, and honestly when they do reach that milestone few of those churches ever actually plant another church because they have not planned to do so.

If we go back to my imaginary Church above, you know the one where everyone is encouraged and empowered and released to live out the calling God has placed on them? Any church that actually lived that out and practiced this sort of extravagant empowerment wouldn't be able to contain the people who flocked to their doorstep. They also wouldn't be able to survive the flood of people unless they were continually sending people out and giving away their brightest and best to fulfill the destiny God had placed on them.

I can't help but feel that this was what Jesus had in mind all along. When he commanded us to love one another and share everything we had with others, Jesus was deputizing us to do the work he started. Jesus trained a handful of men to be salt and light in the world and then he cut them loose and set them free to live out the things he had taught them. He also commanded them to repeat that pattern over and over again. "Go into the world and make disciples of all nations...teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you..." he said. And that's exactly what they did. Over and over again. They followed Jesus and they taught others how to follow Jesus so that they could go out and teach others how to follow Jesus too.

My friend Brent once said that traditional Churches today are like an eternal school full of people who will never graduate. Everyone has to sit through essentially the same lecture each week and there is no homework (so the pastor doesn't test who is putting things into practice or not), and worst of all no one ever graduates and becomes an instructor themselves.

Here's a great solution: Teach your people to become teachers. If you are in the habit of training others to become trainers of others (this is a very basic principle of discipleship), you will eventually end up with a church full of teachers and trainers who are training others to also be teachers and trainers. Over time your church will become so full of mature ("Graduated") leaders and disciple-makers that your small staff will act mostly as facilitators and not the one's who must always be "hands-on" for every single event/class/lesson/bible study, etc.

I have personally been shocked to see a lack of basic trust among most lead pastors to "give away the ministry" in this way. Many pastors are too afraid to actually empower and release others to do their job. Why? Well, it's pretty obvious that this threatens their authority and job security. But, it doesn't have to. I believe any pastor who actually put this into practice would quickly become the envy of other pastors in their community. They'd get phone calls from other pastors asking, "How do you do it?" and "Can you show me how to do what you're doing?"

Most pastors and on-staff ministers can relate to the fact that only a handful of people do all the work and ministry in the Body while 80% to 90% sit back and do nothing. This creates frustration, burn-out and, honestly, a large group of underdeveloped disciples.

What happened to the Priesthood of the Believer? What happened to opening the Word of God and trusting the Holy Spirit to lead you into all truth?

“But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.”
– 1 Peter 2:9

The liberty offered to us in Christ Jesus was meant to empower every believer to become a committed and devoted disciple who, then in turn, goes and creates other committed and devoted disciples. The early church was not full of seminary trained Bible teachers. Most of those who lead the weekly gatherings in their homes were average, ordinary people like you and I. They were lead by the Holy Spirit as they prayed, studied the Scriptures and met together with other followers of Jesus each week.

In my experience as a house church pastor I can testify to the truth of the scriptures where God promises that He will build His church. He doesn’t need our help. He is also true to His word and promise that the Holy Spirit will lead us into all Truth. (John 16:13; 1 Cor 12)

We have a tendency in our traditional churches to centralize certain people as leaders and, in turn, we disqualify everyone else from participating. I believe that this is not the way God intended things to be. We were not saved and filled with the Holy Spirit to simply remain spectators as a select few act out their calling and live out their purpose.

Each of us in the Body of Christ has a specific calling and gift. If we are not set free to use it as God intended not only will we suffer as individuals, we will suffer as a Body, and the Nation will suffer due to our unrealized potential.
(See 1 Cor. 12)

Let me encourage you to discover your calling as a valued member of God’s Family. Once you’ve heard God’s voice and you’ve understood the purpose God has for you as an agent of change within this culture, let me be the first to urge you to step outside the nest and spread your wings.

If you feel called to start a Bible Study in your home, do it. If you feel called to go out into the streets and reach out to the homeless, or the prostitute, go for it. If you have a passion to start a new kind of church that facilitates community and reaches a new generation, make it so.

Don’t allow anyone to hold you back. The Kingdom is wide open. Take that first leap...and soar!

Mike Pilavachi, the founder of Soul Survivor Ministries, will be coming to America and speaking here in Orange County at a special one day conference on the Holy Spirit.

Mike Pilavachi is a powerful, and inspiring speaker. I've been very blessed by Mike in the past, as he shared at Soul Survivor events over the years and I am thrilled to be able to invite everyone to be part of hearing him speak on the Ministry of the Holy Spirit next month.

Mike will be sharing on Saturday, June 28th, from 10am to 2pm at Triangle Square on the Holy Spirit and provide practical training on how to pray for people, how to minister to one another, how to operate in your spiritual gifting, etc. Registration is just $8 and lunch is included. This date will fill up quickly (only 100 seats are available). If you can make it please register today, or at least sometime this week.

I will be at this event with my family. I encourage you to join us.
Please- Don't miss it!

When: Saturday, June 28th 10:00 am - 2:00 pm
Where: Soul Survivor Church at Triangle Square in Costa Mesa
Cost: $8.00 (includes lunch)

REGISTER ONLINE NOW (Seating will be limited and this will fill up quickly)-



My friend Jarred's SENDGAPCLOTHESBACK.COM initiative continues.

In order to protest the use of child slavery to produce clothing for the Gap Inc. store chain (which includes Old Navy and Bannanna Republic), my friend Jarred set up this website and activist initiative to send Gap, Inc. a message.

Phase 1 saw hundreds of people returning their Gap clothing en masse at stores in Miami, Orange County, New York (Times Square) and San Francisco.

Phase 2 is a little more...subversive.

Find out more and participate


Todd Hunter gave a great talk last Thursday concerning the state of Christianity in America today and what he feels we can do to change things for the better.

This was a very inspiring session and it's now available as a free MP3 download over at my podcast page on ITunes.

You can find Todd Hunter's "Three Is Enough" mp3 for free on ITunes under my [Subversive Underground] podcast page (which also has all 3 Non-Con messages).


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